Do Road Signs and Billboards Contribute to Vehicle Accidents?


Have you ever been driving along and all of a sudden you were distracted by a billboard that you have never seen before? Well, this response is all too common among drivers on today’s roads and highways. A recent poll conducted by Privilege Insurance determined that 30% of drivers in the United Kingdom admitted to losing concentration while driving because of a billboard or sign.

Why Driver Distraction Matters

Driver distraction increases the chances that a vehicle accident will occur. It is a major underlying cause of auto accidents. In fact, driver behavior is cited as one of four causes of vehicle accidents listed below in order of most major cause to least major cause:

1. Driver behavior

2. Poor roadway maintenance

3. Roadway design

4. Equipment failure

In fact, over 95% of motor vehicle accidents have some amount of driver behavior as a portion of the cause even if some or all of the other major causes are involved.

Why a Few Seconds of Inattention Matter

We’ve all done it-momentarily moved our eyes away from the road. The problem is that sometimes drivers take their eyes off the road for too long or at a crucial point. If a driver is distracted by the bright colors or someone in sexy lingerie on a billboard while they are diving near you, you could wind up being the victim of a vehicle accident. Orlando auto accident attorneys Best & Anderson are very familiar with this scenario.

Also, electronic and moving billboards with pop-out sections may increase the chances of an accident because people tend to look at them longer than traditional billboards.

If drivers are distracted for five seconds while traveling at 60 miles per hour, then they aren’t looking at the road for 100 yards or more (the length of a football field), which is more than enough time for a vehicle accident to occur.

Even more disturbing, a 2006 study performed by Nottingham University, determined that as much as 50% of a driver’s time spent on the road may involve paying attention to roadside distractions.

Drivers are even distracted by the sheer volume of signs that are actually supposed to help them navigate roads.

All of this adds up to great potential for auto accidents to occur.

The “Highway Hypnosis” Phenomenon

Some people may claim that billboards help relieve driver boredom on long road trips. This would be a positive benefit to billboards. However, a counterargument to this idea is the phenomenon of “highway hypnosis.” This is so-named because when you are driving along a straight, flat section of highway, you enter into an almost trancelike state because of the monotony of everything looking very similar. Drivers can end up fixating on a billboard that seems to pop up out of nowhere during their “hypnosis” and end up causing an accident.

Privilege Insurance determined that in the United Kingdom, roadside distractions affected 83% of UK drivers. That number can surely be applied to United States drivers as well.

This is a startling statistic because it validates what we already suspect: being inundated by signs and billboards as we drive down the road can distract us while we are driving. In fact, there is even a billboard that says, “”Keep your eyes on the road and stop reading these signs.” This billboard confirms that even companies who place billboards know that they are a distraction!

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